Steve Jobs, the latest movie from director Danny Boyle and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin hopes to make you “think different” about the beloved Apple co-founder on which it is based. The movie’s tag line questions “Can a great man be a good man?”; a question the film never answers itself but instead sets out to paint a picture of the people on which it is based.
Like a piece of art, it leaves it up to its viewers to come to their own conclusion on its meaning and quality. Some have criticised the movie calling it a caricature of the man from which it takes its name, whilst others (myself included) would deem it a masterpiece. In that respect, it’s at least like the man himself in that it is divisive, controversial and not always honest.
The film is more a dramatisation than a biopic. It doesn’t tell the story of Jobs from cradle to grave, nor does it choose to focus on a particular period of his life. Instead what Boyle and Sorkin have crafted is more akin to a play split into three acts, each taking place backstage in the 40 minutes prior to one of Jobs’ iconic product launches.
We see him as he exchanges rapid fire dialogue with some of his closest colleagues in the moments leading up to taking the stage. But while the film chronicles these product launches, the heart of it lies within Jobs’ relationship with his daughter Lisa. Exploring themes of rejection and acceptance, we get a glimpse into Jobs’ childhood and how it has influenced his attitude toward legitimising his daughter. A dysfunctional relationship which certainly resonated with Jobs and his difficulty in accepting his own adoption as a child.
Starring Michael Fassbender as the late revolutionary face of Apple and Seth Rogan as the lesser known co-founder Steve Wozniak; Kate Winslet as Joanna Hoffman shines through intimate and touching scenes as Jobs’ closest confidant and ‘work wife’. Jeff Daniels as ex Apple CEO John Scully gives a magnificent performance both dramatically and comically. A father figure to Jobs, his character is allowed to be brutally honest and yet incredibility touching.
The fast pace of the film, broken with moments of humanity really allows the whole cast to give exceptional performances and while they look nothing like their real life counterparts, you very quickly forget as you get dragged into the world that the movie creates.
Lending his theatrical background to the film’s direction, Danny Boyle manages to make what could be a dreary backstage drama really come to life and jump off the screen. It’s also interesting to note that he chose to film each of the three acts in different formats in order to reflect each era (16mm for 1984, 35mm for 1988 and HD digital for 1998). An effect which may go unnoticed by most but really shows Boyle’s commitment to go above and beyond on this project.
The movie decidedly plays fast and loose with real world events and may leave some viewers behind in the process. While these product launches were significant real life events, it’s entirely unbelievable that the events backstage went down as they did in the film.
The chances of the same 6 people confronting Jobs in the 40 minutes before every product launch are slim to none, and film makers have gone on record to say as much. The script even pokes fun at this with Fassbender’s Jobs remarking at one point that “it’s like five minutes before every launch everyone goes to the bar and then tells me what they really think of me.”
Sorkin is clearly more interested in telling the story of Jobs’ relationship with people who have influenced his life rather than adhering strictly to the facts. While this may have been recreated just as well by spreading the story across different stages of Jobs life; confining it to these 3 locations with the impending conferences add a sense of urgency to the proceedings. Making what could have felt long-winded and drawn out actually seem more action-packed, considering it’s such a dialogue heavy film.
In fact during the 2 hour running time there is rarely any breathing space, both for the actors and the audience. The cast deliver their dialogue at machine gun pace and some of the vitriol they spit at one another – particularly that to leave the mouth of Fassbender – is just as exciting to watch as any action scene I’ve seen this year. One particular confrontation scene in the second act between Michael Fassbender and Jeff Daniels is truly one of the most exciting pieces of dialogue and exquisite acting I have seen in a long time.
It’s a film as demanding of the audience as Jobs was of his staff but if you stick with it the end product is a marvel to behold. Like any Apple product, it might not be for everyone but anybody can admire its beauty and the ingenuity that went into making such a thing.